HOPE — The first day of school at Hauser Junior-Senior High was not a day to hit the books. Instead, it was a time to get the computers — school-provided iPads, that is.

Traditional classes start Friday after two days of special sessions and seminars that new Hauser Principal J.P. Mayer has nicknamed “Hauser U.”

Through the end of today, seventh- through 12th-graders are rotating through nearly every teacher in the building for what administrators formally call student professional development, said Mayer, the former high school dean who succeeded Shawn Price as principal after Price was chosen to succeed retired Superintendent Kathy Griffey.

After iPad tablets were distributed to all secondary school students for the first time as part of textbook distribution Wednesday, the students began attending what will amount to 23 separate educational sessions.

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“We want to make sure everyone can make the best use out of that iPad right from the beginning,” Mayer said. “So we’ve invested the first two days of school to make sure everybody is on the same page.”

Several sessions deal directly with the computers, such as using a digital student handbook, Internet etiquette and succeeding in a digital curriculum, Mayer said.

“It’s great that we can teach them those skills they will need to be responsible digital learners,” eighth-grade social studies teacher Carrie Harris said. “I believe this may help turn them into lifelong learners.”

But there also are some sessions mixed in that are more about generating academic enthusiasm and school spirit. For example, students will spend one session learning the Hauser school song.

“That’s not about the iPad, but it’s all about school culture,” Mayer said. “We are promoting both over the next few days.”

The first thing the Hauser students did when they arrived Wednesday was to gather in the fieldhouse for what Mayer described as an educational pep rally.

In a setting that resembled a pregame convocation, he introduced the 29 teachers by using humorous rhyming couplets written by the educators themselves.

Mayer kicked off the couplets with his creation: “Hello. My name is Principal Mayer. I’m the guy without the hair.”

When it got to Jenny Boggs turn, she chimed in: “Mrs. Boggs will teach you important math and English skills, so later on your can pay your bills.”

Price, who described Mayer as a man with a “big personality,” applauded the principal’s innovative efforts to generate excitement about the start of a new school year.

“Our kids and teachers need to be celebrated, and he’s trying to make school feel like a fun place to be,” Price said.

Freshman Jareth Baldwin was excited to receive the computer tablet, which they can take home with them during the upcoming school year.

“All of the big schools I know have a lot of tech, but for Hauser to be so small (with about 275 high school students last year) and still hand out iPads, it’s really cool,” the 14-year-old said. “I don’t even have a laptop at home.”

But two other ninth-graders seemed less enthused, suspecting that free iPads will result in more homework.

“We’ll have 10 times more PowerPoint projects we have to create, so the computers actually make it harder,” said Aaron Leuellen, 15.

“We’re not so much into books anymore, which I like better,” said Veronica McKinney, 13. “The iPads hurt our eyes, and they’ll make us do all our assignments on them.”

Although Harris applauds Hauser’s embracing of technology, she agreed with Veronica that there needs to be a balance between using computers and utilizing traditional teaching methods.

“They still need the skill of taking written notes and knowing how to look things up in a book,” Harris said.

While students in kindergarten through sixth grade at Hope Elementary have had an assigned iPad since last year, those devices do not go home with them.

The debut of “Hauser U” and the issuing of computer tablets weren’t the only new things the junior and senior high school students had to cope with.

“We only have two new teachers in the high school, but with the exception of Mr. Irvine doing our athletics, we are all new in Hauser administration,” Price said.

Besides the promotion of Mayer and himself, the superintendent noted that Hauser Dean Kristi Madden and guidance director Carmen Lynch also are starting new positions.

Although Hauser athletic director Dave Irvine returned after announcing his retirement during the last school year, he’s working on a temporary contract, according to school officials.

With all the changes, junior Trevor Botts admitted Wednesday was an unusual way to start a new school year.

“But, hey, this is high school,” the 16-year-old said. “Nothing is orthodox.”

23 courses of 'Hauser U'

The following topics are being taught to all Hauser Junior-Senior High School students during two days of seminars that wrap up this afternoon:

  1. Computer etiquette and manners
  2. School digital rules and acceptable use policies
  3. Calendar applications and agenda
  4. Web browsers and bookmarks
  5. Learning management systems
  6. Miscellaneous — Part One
  7. Hauser library
  8. Handbook — Part One
  9. Handbook — Part Two
  10. World Book Online
  11. Office 365
  12. Note-taking with iPad
  13. Organizing with iPad
  14. Info Now
  15. Seventh-grade introduction and information
  16. Class meetings for high school students
  17. School website and iPad portal
  18. Icebreakers
  19. Digital citizenship
  20. Goal setting
  21. High school counselor sessions
  22. School fight song
  23. Miscellaneous — Part 2 
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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.